There’s no denying that we live in a digital age. Many of us rely on our phones and tablets for a variety of things throughout the day, and even more so for entertainment and fighting off boredom.
That includes kids, too.
Today’s younger generation has never known a world without smartphones and digital devices.
Many of them are introduced to tech at a very young age, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. However, it should come as no surprise that screen time is at an all-time high.
Children ages 8-18 spend an average of 7.5 hours in front of a screen each day.
There are arguments both for and against screen time for kids, but most people agree that too much time in front of a TV, tablet, or smartphone isn’t good for anyone.
So, what can you do?
As a family, it’s important to strike a healthy balance between screen time and other activities.
That might be hard when your kids love their gaming system. It could even be hard for you when you’re glued to your phone all the time.
However, having some alternate activities planned can make it easier for all of you to cut back on your digital devices.
Recognizing the Risks of Too Much Screen Time
Before you come up with creative ideas for your family, consider sitting down and talking to them about why it’s important to cut back on screen time.
Children, especially, might have a hard time understanding at first, and they must know you aren’t trying to “punish” them by taking away something they enjoy.
Talk about some of the risks of spending too much time on a digital device. That includes things like Computer Vision Syndrome – a condition that can cause eye fatigue, dry eyes, and headaches, and is caused by spending too much time looking at a computer screen.
Other common issues associated with excessive digital use include:
- Sleep problems
- Neck and back pain
- Lower test scores in children
Your conversation can include setting boundaries when it comes to screen time. That might mean setting time limits each day, or “banning” screens during certain hours.
There are apps you can use to track your child’s online activity and others that will shut off Internet access on your child’s phone or tablet after a certain number of hours. Some of these apps even allow you to block specific games and content.
By starting small and explaining the reasons behind decreased screen time, your family is more likely to be on the same page as you suggest different activities.
So, how are you going to fill that time?
Get Outside – Together
Spending time outdoors is one of the best alternative activities to screen time. Kids and adults alike will benefit both physically and mentally from being in nature.
There are countless family activities you can take part in when you go outside, whether you want to stay in your own backyard or go on an adventure.
You can get younger kids excited for outdoor play by investing in some new toys.
By choosing outdoor toys that are safe, durable, educational, and engaging, you’ll feel good about your kids playing with them, and they’ll get the opportunity to burn off some energy while using their imaginations.
Consider getting more directly involved by building a natural playground for your kids. Use your imagination and get creative by repurposing items for your building materials.
Build an obstacle course, hang windsocks and chimes, and create a “fort” for your kids to pretend they’re pirates or explorers. You’ll have fun getting creative and your kids will be able to use the playground for years to come.
If you want to focus on outdoor activities that your whole family can regularly participate in, try things like:
- Going on a neighborhood walk
- Going fishing or kayaking
Spending time outdoors with your family won’t just decrease screen time now. It can help to turn your kids into lifelong lovers of nature.
That can help them to stay physically active throughout their lives and can improve their mental health by reducing stress and boosting their mood.
Find Ways to Stay Creative Indoors
On days you can’t get outside, it’s tempting to let everyone play video games or watch a show on their tablets. While there can be some time for that, there are still plenty of healthy family activities you can do indoors.
If they love the outdoor fort you’ve built, consider setting one up inside on a rainy day!
Use pillows, blankets, chairs, and anything else you can find around the house to set up a makeshift fort in the living room. It will give your kids a chance to use their imagination, and you might even consider “rewarding” them with screen time later by letting them have a snack and watch a movie in their fort.
If you’re stuck on smaller activities to keep everyone busy, consider some of the following ideas:
- Making a family meal together
- Asking your kids to help with chores and making a game out of it
- Playing board games together
- Building with LEGOs, K’Nex, or blocks
- Looking through photo albums and sharing your family history
Consider some of the things your kids’ love, or where they’ve shown interest in the past. Try to foster those interests in different ways that go beyond digital devices.
If your child is a good storyteller, ask them to come up with a story and write it down. If they’re an artist, give them the tools to help them draw or paint on an indoor day.
By catering to their likes and interests, they’re more likely to stick with those activities and less likely to want to go back to their screens.
How much screen time your family has is up to you.
There are some benefits to letting your kids use digital devices, but the “cons” often outweigh them.
So, if you’re trying to limit the amount of screen time for your whole family, let your creativity come forward.
These ideas can help you get started, and you might be surprised by how much closer you feel as a family when you put down the devices and start spending more quality time together.
***Author Bio: Frankie Wallace is a freelance writer from the Pacific Northwest. She enjoys writing about health, wellness, and education, but occasionally goes back to her roots with socially active journalism. Frankie spends her free time gardening or off hiking in the mountains of the PNW with her loved ones.